Kassim's Journey

Being a wide receiver in the NFL is no walk in the park. Only the elite get the chance to catch passes in today's modern version of gladiators. Rookies are often lost on the field. Un-drafted rookies are longshots to even find the field. The San Diego Chargers' Kassim Osgood did just that and then some. He gave us some insight into his rookie season...

His journey started in San Diego, where will it end?

Kassim Osgood was productive in his last season for the San Diego State Aztecs. He ranked second in the nation with 108 catches and also had 1,552 yards. You figure that should get you noticed. Add good size (6'5, 210lbs) to that production and you figure you'll at least get drafted. It didn't happen for Kassim. He was downgraded because of a slow forty time at the combine: "I built up my speed a lot after the combine- I was real disappointed in my forty time so I really concentrated on it and built up my speed."

The work is paying off as he now runs the forty in the high 4.4's - low 4.5's. Going undrafted may have turned out to be a blessing. The Chargers signed him as an undrafted free agent allowing him to continue his career in San Diego.

Kassim turned heads in training camp and made a good impression on the coaching staff. A broken thumb took valuable repetitions and playing time from him but his impression was strong enough to keep him on the team after cut downs.

So what's it like being an undrafted rookie wide receiver in the NFL?

"Really detailed, a lot different than college. In college you can sort of let you're talent take over a little more but in the NFL you actually have to know where to be and when to be there in order to get the ball."

Kassim showed dramatic improvement throughout the season. He found himself at the right place at the right time more often, which resulted in more production as the season transpired.

Another factor when jumping to the NFL is the level of competition. Less than 5% of college football players make it to the NFL. On a broader spectrum, the chances of facing an NFL caliber cornerback are few and far between in college. The defensive backs in the NFL are no joke.

"It's a lot different when you're going against guys like Charles Woodson who's a first rounder and Heisman trophy winner. If they're not better than you- they're equal to your caliber so it's a little more difficult to get open."

Luckily for Kassim he has a Hall of Famer in his corner, wide receiver's coach James Lofton guided him through his rookie season. The tangible nuances of the game were secondary to what Kassim felt were the more important intangibles that he learned from Coach Lofton.

"Preparation during game week, taking practices seriously, how to look at film. The biggest thing I learned was how to watch film. Sometimes in college I would just watch film like I'm watching the game on TV but coach Lofton actually showed me what to look for, how to set up your opponent, how to find ways to get open and how to picture a play going in your head and how (that play) would look against that particular defense you would see that week." Coach Lofton was a factor in Kassim's decision to sign with the Chargers and now he's instrumental in his development.

Catching a touchdown pass in the NFL must be a good feeling. Some even grab pom-poms or call their moms from a cell phone after catching one. Imagine going through two long days in April, waiting for a phone call from some team telling you that you've just been drafted in the NFL... but the call never comes. Then imagine you somehow make a team and go on to catch your first ever NFL touchdown pass.

It happened to Kassim.

"I was in the huddle and Doug (Flutie) said he was gonna put it up high for me and I didn't even know if he was gonna throw it or not.

I was just so nervous in the game that I was just concentrating on trying to get open and when I turned around I saw the ball was in the air- I just tried to catch it and hold onto it. I knocked myself silly a little bit (when I hit the ground) but I got up and it was kind of a good feeling to get that first one under my belt." Must've been.

Kassim's first touchdown came on a designed play that offensive coordinator Cam Cameron had been saying was going to work. After the game coach Cameron told Kassim that it didn't matter who the receiver was- he was calling the play regardless.

This only added to Kassim's excitement: "That felt good for me to hear the coach tell me that he had the confidence to throw the ball to me, especially in a situation like that."

Props to the coach for giving a rookie a chance.

Kassim really likes playing for the energetic and detail oriented Cam Cameron: "Cam's very particular on details. You could sort of say he's a perfectionist, which is good for us in that we have to perfect the plays that he calls. I enjoy playing for him because he has so much energy it kind of rubs off on you." Kassim's emotion on the field is a testament to that.

The Chargers have a need for a legitimate #2 receiver and Kassim Osgood only helped his cause with the growth he displayed throughout his rookie season. He saved his best for the second to last game of the season against the Steelers. It was a day to remember for Kassim, he caught 4 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.

There is no off-season for Kassim Osgood. His time off will be spent back in San Diego where he will work with Coach Lofton.

"The biggest thing they want me to work on is getting familiar with running the routes. When you're new to an offense you sort of hesitate throughout your route, it's like tiptoeing through things as you're learning. After having a whole season under your belt you just continue to go through it in the offseason so that it becomes second nature so that you're not thinking and you can play faster."

Kassim's goal for next year is to get 1,000 yards receiving.

"That's a pretty hefty goal for a second year guy but I think I can manage to get it."

Hefty it is, but no ones complaining. Charger fans can find solace in their concerns for help at wide receiver.

Somewhere in San Diego, Kassim Osgood is probably running an out pattern...and James Lofton is right there with him.

Will-full Wisdom:Ted Cottrell met with Marty Schottenheimer for roughly five hours on Monday, but it appears he will leave without a contract offer. The Chargers have until the end of the week to offer him a deal as Cottrell is scheduled to meet with Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Will Mortensen can be reached at will.powered@verizon.net

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